Hidden Expedition: Titanic Review
Posted by Ron DelVillano
An exposition on the commodification of human tragedy
On April 15, 1912, a passenger liner carrying no less than 2,000 travelers struck an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. Not properly equipped with the necessary amount of lifeboats and other safety equipment, when the ship sank the vast majority of passengers did not survive. More than 100 years later we still remember this international tragedy, but it seemingly no longer lives on as one of the most disastrous incidents of modern times. Instead, we remember this event through a series of romantic films, video games and comedy sketches. This is the legacy of RMS Titanic.
As human beings, we have a desire to move past tragedy by any means necessary. The unfortunate side effect of attempting to forget past events is that they often become commoditized, turning historical events into something completely different than they originally were. The sinking of the Titanic remains one of the most prominent and fatal tragedies in human history, but that aspect of the past has all but sank with the ship. It's healthy to overcome and learn from history, but it's problematic when the weight of certain events is forgotten.
But this isn't a review of societal norms or our all-too human insistence to move on and forget about disaster. This is a review of Hidden Expedition Titanic, a new hidden object puzzle game on the 3DS eShop.
Released earlier this year in Europe as a DSiWare download, Hidden Expedition Titanic takes the familiar formula of hidden object games and puts in no effort to make it even remotely interesting or different. All of the gameplay involves staring at still images of rooms full of rubbish, prompting you to identify and tap on the ones listed for you to find. Each stage — or "dive" — takes place in a different room on the sunken Titanic, all of which you will revisit multiple times. As you progress further stages become more difficult, adding multiple rooms to each dive and bookending them with an additional puzzle that shifts between simple jigsaw puzzles and more hidden object games.
With each dive you have more items to find, but less time to do it in. There is no real plot, but the idea loosely stringing all of the stages together is that you’re a diver seeking out the lost items of specific passengers of the sunken ship.
As with most games of this genre on the 3DS platform, the majority of controls involve use of the console’s touchscreen. You can pan around the room using the Circle Pad, but really all you need to do is tap your stylus around until you hit the object that you’re supposed to be looking for. Time is penalized for every spot that you tap that doesn’t contain the object that you’re supposed to be finding, but it’s not enough of a punishment to deter frustrated players who just want to be done. If you still have trouble finding an object, you may press the hint button, an option that takes away a more significant chunk or your time but leads you directly to the hidden piece. The time limit and penalization for assistance help raise the intensity of an otherwise dull genre, but the impact is limited.
Our biggest complaint about the DSiWare release is that its visuals were too muddy and grainy, a cardinal sin when committed by a game that requires little more than to be looked at. The images in this 3DS iteration remain far from perfect, but they are slightly clearer. There are still plenty of objects that are nearly unrecognizable and will only be discovered by random tapping or pure luck, but it would be unfair to completely dismiss what is, in fact, and improvement. The implementation of the current generation handheld's signature 3D effect does absolutely nothing to affect gameplay as everything takes place on the strictly 2D bottom screen, but the top screen looks nice enough displaying the list of items you need to find and the amount of time you have to locate them in. The soundtrack is equally unimpressive, featuring looped tracks that do nothing to enhance the experience.
It's can be argued as morally wrong to exploit tragedy in any form, but if it has to be done, it might as well be through sub-par hidden object games. Hidden Expedition Titanic takes a tried and true genre and does absolutely nothing with it, making for an underwhelming experience overall. It's a slight graphical improvement over its original DSiWare release, but that doesn't make up for the lacklustre gameplay that drags on far too long. Fans of hidden object games are better off leaving this one at the bottom of the deep blue sea.